Ira Baseman with Remberto Perez, one of Community Recycling’s clothing buyers, in Inuique, Chile.
By Ira Baseman
Recently, there has been a lot of invigorating discussion from sustainable business leaders in the apparel industry about implementing take-back programs to recycle clothing and accessories. After all, it is estimated that more than 70 pounds per consumer, or nearly 22 billion pounds of clothing, shoes and accessories annually, end up in our solid waste stream — representing 5 percent of landfills. To be sure, retailers and manufacturers are playing a strong role by raising awareness about this problem of overburdened landfills and encouraging consumers to become part of the solution. I want to elevate the discussion and challenge business leaders to consider a new model for recycling that is focused on reuse, unprecedented convenience and personal engagement that is meaningful and impactful. In my work, I see a new wave of conscious consumerism taking hold, and I like to refer to this as the ‘reuse movement.’
The reuse movement is about making recycling personal. It is about creating and delivering an experience for consumers and a new (corporate social responsibility CSR) journey for retailers and other stakeholders. Each single, personal act of recycling creates local community benefits, such as reusing materials or turning them into new products, and it creates a global impact such as generating new jobs, connecting people through recycling and ultimately reducing waste.
For the retail industry, a new program within the reuse movement allows consumers to recycle clothing shoes, and accessories without leaving their homes – for free. Through a customized portal designed for the retailer, consumers are invited to simply box up their items, print out a free shipping label and place the box on their doorstep for pick-up by their mail carrier. Once recyclers ship their items for reuse, they are invited to their own environmental dashboard where they receive a personalized sustainability report, track the path of their recyclables across the world and share their success through social media channels to showcase their personal impact. For the recycler, this experience is personal, measurable and impactful. For the retailer/manufacturer, this is frictionless, traceable and builds a sustainability record that is easily deliverable to all stakeholders.
One such leader embracing this program in the reuse movement is Original Penguin. The company offers this opportunity to its consumers online and in-store (receipt promotions) with little to no labor impact, which showcases how the company is reducing its environmental footprint. Thus far, Original Penguin, has engaged its consumers in more than 20 states, which are all traceable back to each patron. Click to continue reading »
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